Game – from venison to quail - is a divisive foodstuff. It’s either someone’s very first choice or dismissed out of hand for being too, well, “gamey”.
Typically served in the autumn and winter months, game consists of any and all animals or birds which are historically hunted for food rather than being reared on a farm.
The term game is found as far back as the late 13th century where it was a part of the hunting English terminology of the time. The word ‘gamen’ as it was then, is derived from the German ‘gamanan’ which translates as ‘amusement’.
For many, it is unsavoury to think of game in these terms – but it is worth remembering that when killing game, there are regulations to ensure continuity of the animal species and its meat resource.
There are plus points to not eating farmed animals. Game meat tends to be healthier in general. This is primarily due to the animal's natural diet and lifestyle: its conditions mean it is free and fresh and the food it eats is organic. No artificial hormones have been near it.
The list of what we mean when we talk about ‘game’ includes but is not limited to hare, rabbit, wild boar, venison, woodcock, grouse and snipe.
All of these meats can be served in plenty of different ways – barbecued, in pies and cured.
Game tends to have a strong taste – earthy and full which makes it seem like a hearty, filling choice. And it is, thanks to being high in protein and offering an abundance of vitamins. But what plenty of people are unaware of is that game meat tends to be leaner and lower in cholesterol than other red meat. Venison, in particular, is packed with iron.
We love this venison dish by the great Raymond Blanc. OK, meat and chocolate might seem a stretch but the reality is nothing short of sublime.
We also recommend the bounty of Skye Gyngell’s quail recipes – three delicious ways to cool this diminutive bird bursting with flavour.
And lastly Sarah Cook’s Mr McGregor’s Rabbit Pie is comfort food indeed – but not one for fans of Peter Rabbit!